Gender and the give and take of emotions in the workplace
This paper unpacks how gender shapes emotional expressions, mimicry, and accommodation of negative emotions in private communications between colleagues. I develop a theoretical account of how women adjust their expressive tendencies more than men do to navigate the impression-management bind that inhibits their expressions of negative emotions. Because women, more than men, are socialized into roles with unbounded emotional obligations, they are more likely to accommodate their colleagues' negative emotions to achieve the social benefits of emotional mimicry. I test these ideas using the content of 425,649 one-to-one email message threads exchanged over six years among 710 full-time employees at a mid-sized technology firm. People have natural tendencies to express emotions and tend to sort into conversation with others who have similar propensities. To varying degrees, people also actively adapt their emotional expressions to mimic those of their conversation partner. To account for selection of individuals into conversations on the basis of similarity in emotional expression tendencies, I employ a word-based hierarchical alignment model that distinguishes base rates of word usage from adaptive mimicry in response to others' language use. I find that women are 16.0% less likely to express negative emotions and 11.4% more likely to express positive emotions than men. Women emotionally accommodate their conversation partners’ negative emotions more than men do, even in email. Overall, people are six times more likely to express positive, rather than negative, emotions at work. Finally, I discuss the implications of these findings for research on emotional cultures, gender, and workplace inequality.
* Runner-up for Louis Pondy Best Dissertation Paper Award for the Academy of Management Organization and Management Theory Section
race, place, and crime: how violent crime events affect employment discrimination
This article examines how exposure to violent crime events affects employers’ decisions to hire black job applicants with and without a criminal record. Results of a quasi-experimental research design drawing on a correspondence study of 368 job applications submitted to 184 hiring establishments in Oakland, California and archival data of crime events indicate that callback rates were 11 percentage points lower for black job applicants than for white or Hispanic applicants and 12 percentage points lower for those with a criminal record relative to those without one. Recent exposure to nearby violent crimes further reduced employers’ likelihood of calling back black job applicants by 10 percentage points, regardless of whether or not they had a criminal record, but did not have the same effect on callback rates for white or Hispanic applicants.
Revise and resubmit at American Journal of Sociology
* Winner of Best Student Paper Award for the American Sociological Association Crime, Law, and Deviance Section
The Limits of Brief Social Psychological Interventions: Evidence from a Field Experiment
(with sameer b. srivastava AND Laura Kray)
Brief interventions that strengthen an individual’s sense of social belonging have been shown to improve outcomes for members of underrepresented, marginalized groups in educational settings. This paper examines the efficacy of such interventions in the workplace. We focus on the technology sector, where gender inequities persist despite firms’ considerable investments in diversity and inclusion programs. Adapting a social-belonging intervention from educational psychology, we implemented a quasi-random field experiment, spanning twelve months, with 506 newly hired engineers (24% female) in the R&D function of a west coast technology firm. Newcomers who joined in odd months received a social-belonging intervention in their onboarding program, whereas newcomers who joined in even months received a control intervention. The social-belonging intervention did not have robust statistically significant effects on women’s subsequent career success. Nor did we find statistically significant evidence that the social-belonging intervention affected women newcomers’ professional networks, as prior work has suggested it should. We discuss the implications of these results for research on interventions to address gender inequity and challenges of porting interventions across different types of empirical settings.
Revise and resubmit at Academy of Management Discoveries
What is Cultural Fit? from cognition to behavior (and back)
(with amir goldberg and sameer b. srivastava)
How people fit into social groups is a core topic of investigation across multiple sociological subfields, including education, immigration, and organizations. In this chapter, we synthesize findings from these literatures to develop an overarching framework for conceptualizing and measuring the level of cultural fit and the dynamics of enculturation between individuals and social groups. We distinguish between the cognitive and behavioral dimensions of fitting in, which previous work has tended to either examine in isolation or to conflate. Reviewing the literature through this lens enables us to identify the strengths and limitations of unitary—that is, primarily cognitive or primarily behavioral—approaches to studying cultural fit. In contrast, we develop a theoretical framework that integrates the two perspectives and highlights the value of considering their interplay over time. We then identify promising theoretical pathways that can link the two dimensions of cultural fit. We conclude by discussing the implications of pursuing these conceptual routes for research methods and provide some illustrative examples of such work.
Forthcoming in Wayne H. Brekhus and Gabe Ignatow (Editors), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Sociology.
Even in brief or routine interactions, people constantly make judgments about others’ social worlds and their positions in social structure. These inferences matter in contexts as diverse as hiring, venture capital funding, and courtship encounters. Yet it remains unclear whether people are accurate in assessing the social networks in which others are embedded and, if so, which behavioral cues perceivers use to form these impressions. Drawing on the “thin-slicing” paradigm in social psychology and data on over 4,276 judgments made by 586 perceivers about 23 strangers, we find that people can accurately infer the size and composition of others’ networks. They are not, however, accurate in “seeing” the structure of relationships surrounding an individual.